5900 Little Falls Road
Arlington, VA 22207
Fax: 703-228-2300
Friday, May 22, 2015


Counseling Program News
May 2015 
Career Development 

In May, our school counseling program is focusing on Career Development. That means that all Nottingham Knights will learn about careers in their classroom lessons with the counselors. Elementary school is the perfect time for kids to start learning about careers because we know that children perform better in school if they understand how education affects their futures.

In elementary school, school counselors focus on career awareness and personal exploration. We help students:

o   Understand the connection between school and the world of work

o   Discover the broad range of occupations available

o   Connect the learning in school to situations in the real world

o   Start to picture themselves as workers

o   Develop their work-readiness skills, or the “soft skills”, that all jobs require like working in groups, organizational skills, problem solving, and leadership

At Nottingham, our Kindergarteners learn about workers in our school. First grade Knights explore the tools associated with a variety of occupations. Second graders delve into the six career paths. In third grade, students revisit the six career paths and make connections between play, school, and careers. Fourth graders learn about jobs long ago, jobs today, and jobs of the future. Fifth grade Knights explore their personal strengths and career goals.

Parents can help their children learn about a variety of careers and how their educations connect with future jobs. For example, you can talk about how veterinarians use math to calculate the amount of medicine animals need, fire fighters need to be good at working in groups, and video game designers must have good writing skills and the ability to accept constructive feedback. More tips from America’s Career Resource Network are below (http://acrn.ovae.org/parents/careeraware.htm).

How to Talk to Your Child about Careers

Relate your child's interests to adult activities. For example:

  • If your child likes art, discuss how adults use art to design houses, clothing, magazine ads, movie sets and even toys. Explain that people also use art when they draw cartoons, arrange flowers, or take photos for magazines and books.
  • If your child likes to be outdoors, talk about outdoor careers like landscape architecture, forestry, archaeology, construction work, marine biology and commercial fishing.
  • If your child is very social, discuss how people who like to talk and work with people may choose to work as a teacher, a lawyer, a customer service representative, a receptionist, a hotel manager or a convention planner.
  • If your child likes to help people, talk about different ways he or she can do that in a career such as nursing, medicine, athletic training, family counseling or childcare.
  • If your child loves math, you may want to talk to him or her about becoming an accountant, a computer programmer, an engineer or a statistician. You should also remind your child that almost all careers use basic math, so it is a very important skill.
  • If your child likes to keep others safe, talk to him or her about a career as a police officer, a forensic scientist, a detective, an investigator, a parole officer, a security guard or a bailiff.
April 2015
Bullying Awareness, Prevention and Intervention
Our theme for classroom lessons this month is bullying awareness, prevention, and intervention.  In kindergarten and grade 1 we focus primarily what bullying is and what it is not.  We also introduce the need to report all bullying to a trusted adult.  In grade 2 we begin to introduce the school-wide formal definition of bullying from the Steps to Respect program developed by the Committee for Children. Bullying is unfair and one-sided.  It happens when someone keeps hurting, frightening, threatening, or leaving someone out on purpose. In grade 2 we talk about bullying as being a big deal when a person or group or being mean on purpose more than once.  In grades 3-5 we focus on the role of the helpful bystander or "upstander" in preventing and responding to bullying. In the upper grades we also talk about bullying with technology.
March 2015
How to Help Anxious Children 
Anxiety is normal and useful until it becomes excessive and detrimental.  If your child is worrying too much you can establish a set "worry time." Depending on your child's age this could be scheduled for 10-20 minutes early each evening.  During the worry time you will be available to discuss your child's worried thoughts and scared feelings.  When your child brings up a worry any other time, postpone by saying I will be glad to discuss that during worry time if it is still bothering you then.  Being able to postpone worry is a powerful tool that will allow your child to gain control over the automatic negative thoughts that are feeding his/her anxiety. 
There are 2 cautions for parents: 1) don't over reassure; and 2) don't let your child avoid the thing/person/event/etc. that is causing the anxiety.  Instead parents need to help the child develop tools to cope with anxiety in a positive way.  For more assistance check out one of the books below, borrow one of the Family Resource Packs on this topic, or make an appointment to see one of the school counselors, the school psychologist, or school social worker. 
For more information:
Anxiety-Free Kids, by Zucker, offers parents strategies that help children become happy and worry free, methods that relieve a child's excessive anxieties and phobias, and tools for fostering interaction and family-oriented solutions.
You and Your Anxious Child, by Albano, has moving case studies and brings much-needed hope to families, helping them shape a positive new vision of the future.
Freeing Your Child from Anxiety, by Chansky, shares a proven approach for helping children build emotional resilience for a happier and healthier life. This book was revised in 2014.
February 2015
Kindness Matters 
Our theme for classroom lessons taught by the counselors this month is kindness.  Nottingham will be participating in Random Acts of Kindness Week February 9-15 (For more information see https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/rak-week).  The main message of the lesson is being kind makes the giver happy, the receiver happy, and even those witnessing the acts of kindness occurring happy.  In the lessons we encourage the students to express gratitude and show kindness to people who do things for them every day (examples, the custodians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, teachers, etc.). In the older grades we discuss compassion which is acting on empathy be showing kindness.  In fifth grade we link kindness and integrity. Please model and encourage your child to spread kindness - there is a ripple effect to a single act of kindness. 
December 2014
Creating More Realistic Gift Expectations For Your Child
from the American Counseling Association
The holiday season is a time of giant expectations for young children. Kids face enormous marketingrts from every front about the toys they “must have” this year.
Even adults get affected by all the advertising. We may find ourselves fantasizing about football games on
that giant screen TV, or looking great in that new sports car.
Of course, as adults, we usually can put such fantasies aside as we remind ourselves that our lives have
limits. But for a young child, it’s much harder to accept parents' practical decisions and budget limitations.
That fantasy about how much better that “hot” new toy will make his or her life is very real.
This happens because young children have the ability to move from reality to fantasies and dreams much
more easily than adults. Our life experience has taught us that allowing dreams to run wild for too long
increases our chances for disappointment when we face the reality of our everyday lives.
But kids are programmed to spend a lot more time in their fantasy worlds and to see all their dreams as
realities that are possible. It’s all part of normal human development. This ability to play and imagine is the
root of creativity.
Belief that a particular toy will help them live out their fantasy is very strong for young children. Your
adult reasons why their request can’t be met will have little meaning or impact. Saying, “That toy is too
expensive” may just make the child cling harder to the fantasy of how wonderful it would be to have it.
Rather than fighting the request, try allowing your child to enjoy the fantasy by showing you understand.
Saying, “That really does look like a great toy,” or asking “What do you like about that toy?” or “What would
you do if you had it?” allows the child to keep the dream alive without your giving in to the demand or just
saying no.
By not resisting the fantasy you allow your child to return to reality at his or her own pace, and you avoid
feeling guilty or being responsible for a broken dream. Then, when the passion for the toy is not as high, try
having a calm discussion about why getting that particular toy is not a good decision. Your goal is to bring
your child back to realistic expectations slowly but surely.
"Counseling Corner" is provided by the American Counseling Association. Comments and questions to
ACAcorner@counseling.org or visit the ACA website at www.counseling.org
September 2014
August 2014

Extracurricular Activities for Elementary-School Students

After School Activities Can Relieve Stress

Children enrolled in elementary school can usually handle around two to four activities per week depending on the child. You may be able to find a variety of activities to choose from, depending on your child's interests. Below is a list of some extracurricular activities for elementary students.

  • Sports. Enrolling your child in sports-related activities, including dance, soccer, basketball, softball, and a host of other activities, will obviously help your child engage in physical exercise. Participating in physical exercise will help her alleviate stress, build self-esteem, and stay physically healthy. Additionally, your child can learn to be part of a team and learn the attributes that a good teammate possesses.
  • Music. Students that take music lessons for a year increase their IQ an average of two points over students who do not, as reported in the Monitor of Psychology. Children will also learn valuable time management skills as they learn to juggle practice sessions, not only at school, but at home.
  • Martial Arts. Children who study martial arts, whether it is karate or tae kwon do, learn mental and physical discipline. Martial arts promote physical wellness through building muscles, coordination, and balance. On the other hand, mental stability may be achieved through breathing and energy manipulation exercises that are often an important part of martial arts training.
  • Volunteering. You and your child can volunteer at a community organization that she believes in. This will help your child understand that everyone can make a difference, no matter her age. Your child will also learn that she is part of a larger community and that everyone should lend their support and help to a cause they believe in.
  • Nottingham's own after school enrichment classes.
Now is the time to start figuring out what after school activities would best suit your child(ren).
Adapted from  http://www.kidpointz.com/parenting-articles/elementary-school/extracurricular-activities/view/extracurricular-activities-elementary-school-students
June 2014
Importance of Free Play

Too often these days, parents feel they have no choice but to pack their child's schedules with adult-supervised, adult-driven activities such as organized sports. 

But, as a  report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) makes clear, such activities should not come at the expense of free and unstructured play, which is critical to healthy child development.

The overriding premise of the report is that "play (or some available free time in the case of older children and adolescents) is essential to the cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being of children and youth."

Benefits of Play

Why is free, unstructured play so important? There are lots of reasons, says the AAP:

  • Play is important to healthy development of the brain;
  • Undirected play helps children learn how to work collaboratively, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and learn self-advocacy skills;
  • When play is child-driven, children practice decision-making skills, move at their own pace, discover areas of interest on their own, and ultimately engage fully in the passions they wish to pursue;
  • When play is controlled by adults - such as in organized sports - children have to follow to adult rules and concerns (like winning) and lose some of the benefits play offers them, particularly in developing creativity, leadership and group skills.
  • Play offers parents a wonderful opportunity to engage fully with their children;
  • Play and unscheduled time that allows for peer interactions is an important component of social-emotional learning; and
  • Free, child-driven, creative play protects against the effects of pressure and stress.

Read more: http://www.momsteam.com/successful-parenting/unstructured-free-play-important-for-child-development-experts-say#ixzz35Pg9l1Bn
May 2014

Tips for Safety with Strangers and People Children Know

Written by Irene van der Zande, Kidpower Founder and Executive Director

You can teach children to be safe without scaring them – You just need to know how.

Young people are at risk of assault, abduction, and abuse even in caring families, schools, and communities. Skills and knowledge are the keys to keeping kids safe.  The good news is that there are simple and effective ways of teaching children how to protect themselves that will work most of the time.

Parents, teachers, and other caregivers need to know that their children are more likely to be harmed by someone they know than by a stranger. Children need to have clear safety rules both for strangers when they are out on their own and for setting boundaries with people they know.

Anyone can be a child molester—a neighbor, a relative, a family friend, a youth group leader, a teacher, even another child. The best way to protect your children’s personal safety is know what is happening with them.  Make the time to ask them often, “Is there anything you’ve been wondering or worrying about that you haven’t told me?” and to listen to their answers with patience and respect.

Children need to understand that there are different safety rules when they are not in the care of their adult and when they are on their own. Children who are only a short distance away from an adult in charge even for a few minutes are on their own. They don’t need to worry. They just need to know what to do.

Just telling children about safety or just showing children what to do is not enough. When we just talk to children about danger, their raised awareness can actually raise their level of anxiety. Young people learn best by actively participating. Practicing children’s personal safety skills increases their confidence and competence. It is important to do this in a way that is not scary, but is fun. Your child can learn with you, and in programs such as Kidpower.

Kidpower Tips for Talking to Your Kids About Strangers

“Stranger danger” is an idea that can increase anxiety and make it harder for us to figure out ways of helping our children stay safe.

Instead, at Kidpower we talk about stranger safety.  Rather than focusing on the bad things that sometimes happen, we encourage parents and caregivers to focus on teaching and practicing the skills and behaviors they want their children to use to stay safe with strangers.

Be sure that you are calm yourself when you talk to kids about strangers. If you sound anxious, they will pick up on that.  Talking about “stranger danger” or focusing on scary stories can increase fear and anxiety for everyone.  Instead, tell kids in a matter-of-fact way that you believe that most people are GOOD, and that this means that most strangers are good, but that a few people have problems that might cause them to hurt kids.

Tell children that they do NOT have to worry about strangers if they follow the safety rules. If children are by temselves, the safety rule is to come and check with an adult first before getting close to or talking to anyone they don’t know well. Help kids come up with specific examples of people they know well and people they don’t.

Kidpower Safety Rules for Children when They Are on their Own

  • Most people are good. This means most strangers are good.
  • A stranger is just someone I don’t know and can look like anybody.
  • The rules are different when I am with an adult who is taking care of me and when I am on my own. When I am on my own, my job is to check first with the adult in charge before I let a stranger get close to me, talk to me, or give me anything.
  • If I am old enough to be out on my own without an adult to ask, it is safer to be where there are other people close by to get help if I need it.
  • I do not give personal information to a stranger or to someone who makes me feel uncomfortable.
  • It is OK to get help from strangers if an emergency is happening to me, and there is no one close by that I know.
  • My job is to check first with the adult in charge before I go anywhere with anyone (a stranger or someone I know). I will tell the adult in charge where I am going, who will be with me, and what I will be doing.
  • I will have a safety plan for how to get help anywhere I go.
  • I will know what my family’s safety rules are for children answering the door, being on the phone, and being on the internet.

To Be Able to Follow These Rules, Children Need to Practice These Kidpower Skills:

  • How to stand and walk with awareness, calm, and respectful confidence
  • How to move away and stay out of reach from someone approaching them
  • How to walk away from a stranger without waiting even if that person is being very nice
  • How to check first even when someone they know and trust says not to
  • How to get help from a busy or insensitive adult if they are lost or scared
  • How to make noise, run, and get to safety in case of an emergency
  • What to say and do if a stranger approaches them at home

Kidpower Safety Rules With People Kids Know

  • I belong to myself–my body, my time, my spirit–ALL of me. Touch for play, teasing, or affection has to be both people’s choice and it has to be safe.
  • Except for health, no one should touch me in my private areas (the parts of the body covered by a bathing suit).
  • No one should ask me to touch them in their private areas.
  • Touch or other behavior for health or safety is not always a choice, but also should never, EVER, have to be a secret.
  • I do not have to let what other people say control how I feel.
  • Anything that bothers me should not have to be a secret.
  • If I have a problem, I need to tell an adult I trust and keep on telling until I get help.
  • It is never too late to get help.

To Be Able to Follow These Rules, Children Need to Practice These Kidpower Skills:

  • Saying “No” to unwanted or inappropriate behavior using polite clear words, eye contact, and assertive body language
  • Persisting even when someone uses bribes, hurt feelings, or power to try to pressure them into doing something that makes them feel uncomfortable
  • Protecting themselves from hurtful words
  • Verbal choices for getting out of potentially dangerous situations
  • Getting the attention of busy adults and telling the details about situations that make them confused or uncomfortable
April 2014
How    To    Use    Rewards    To    Promote    Good    Behavior    In    Your    Children    
from the American Counseling Association
     As  parents  we  all  want  to  encourage  good  behaviors  in  our  children,  whether  it's  playing  with  other   children,  doing  schoolwork,  performing  family  chores  or  simply  interacting  with  adults. Children  learn  their  behaviors  by  associating them  with  consequences.  When  a  child  is  rewarded  for doing  something  well  he  has  learned  it's  a  positive  consequence.  If  he  is  punished  for  a  behavior  he  learns  it  is  a  negative  consequence.  And  when  either  consequence  is  repeated  over  time,  it  can  lead  to  a  change  in   behavior.    
     Research  has  shown  that  pleasant,  positive  consequences  (rewards)  are  more  effective  in  changing   behaviors  than  unpleasant  consequences  (punishment).     Such  rewards  can  be  either  tangible,  such  as  a  toy  or  book  or  favorite  food,  or  intangible,  such  as  praise  for  doing  something  well.   But  regardless  of  the  type  of   reward,  how  it  is  used  is  important  if  it  is  to  b   effective.    
     -  Reward  only  occasionally.     If  a  child  can  figure  when  a  reward  will  be  provided,  he/she  will  only   produce  the  desired  behavior  when  it's  certain    the  reward  will  be  forthcoming.    
     -  Reward  extra  effort.  When  a  child  is  rewarded  for  doing  more  than  expected,  the  reward  becomes   motivation  to  continue  to  go  beyond  the  call  of  duty.    
     -  Reward  immediately  after  the  desired  behavior.  When  th   reward  is  delayed,  it  loses  its  motivational   power    with    most    children.    
     -  Reward  effort,  not  just  performance.      When  your  child  is  clearly  working  hard  to  do  something  well,   reward  the  effort  that's  being  expended,  even  if  he/she  falls  short of  the  desired  goal.    
     -  Use  a  variety  of  rewards.  Using  one  reward  constantly  can  cause  it  to  lose   its  effect.    
     -  Allow  your  child  to  select  the  reward.  Giving  your  child  some  say  in  what  reward  really  matters  to   him/her  helps  make   the  reward  much  more    effective.    
     -  When  giving  a  tangible  reward,  combine  it  wit   a  positive  word  or  touch.  Doing  so  greatly  increases   the  value  of  the  reward.        
     Rewards  shouldn't  be  the  only  motivation  to  get  a  child  to  perform  a  task.  Nor  should  rewards  be  used   as  bribes  to  get  desired  behavior.  Instead,  set  a  positive  example,  encourage  positive  behavior  as  a  meaningful  goal  itself,  and  then  use  rewards  sparingly  to  show  that  you  appreciate  and  approve  of  what  has  been   accomplished.   When  children  learn  they're  earning  your  praise  and  appreciation,  that's  the  real  motivation  for  behavior  to  be  repeated.    
     "Counseling    Corner"    is    provided    by    the    American    Counseling    Association.
March 2014
How to Help Children of Different Ages Cope with a Death

Adapted from an article by Earl A. Grollman, D.H.L., D.D.

Some people believe that children are just too young to understand the meaning of death, that they shouldn't be burdened with thoughts they cannot possibly grasp, and that they should be spared adult grief.

But children growing up today are well aware of the reality of death. They seem to have built-in lie detectors and know something ominous is occurring in their small world. We cannot protect them from the tragedies of life, but we can exercise considerable influence by modeling healthy attitudes.

There are many variables that affect children's understanding of death, such as who died, where, when, and how, and how the death will affect the child, as well as the child's prior experiences with loss. And of course, there is the developmental age. It is important to remember that children of the same age may differ widely in their comprehension and behavior. It is impossible to fit perceptions into a fixed-age category. For all of us, the meaning of death changes as our life changes. The following are but general guidelines that might prove helpful.

Ages Five to Nine

Because of their life experiences, youngsters this age are better able to understand the meaning of physical death. Death is final. Living things must die. But they may not think of it as happening to them. At this stage, they may neither deny death nor accept its inevitability. A compromise is made. Death is "real" – but only for others, the aged.

Some tend to consider death comes in the form of a person or spirit. Those who watch horror shows may believe death is a bogeyman, a skeleton, or a ghost that makes the rounds late at night and selectively carries away helpless victims.

They want to know about the physical aspects of the death, "How did the person die?" "Was she killed?" "Was there a lot of pain?" "How does she look now?" "What happens to the body?"

What you can do:

Children in this age range cope best when they receive simple, honest, and accurate information. If they desire, let them attend the services for that which is more visible and mentionable is clearly more manageable. Don't be afraid to show your grief. Adults' controlled behavior is more difficult for them to handle than expressed sorrow.

Ages Ten and Older

Now children can formulate realistic concepts based on observation. Death is not a person but a perceptible end of bodily life. Dead is dead. It is final and universal. It is brought about by natural as well as accidental causes. Death is that inevitable experience which happens to all, including the child.

Death as the end of life is especially frightening and painful for young people ten years of age and older. Death is now a biological failure of organs to function. The magical, life-renewing conception of death is replaced by one that is terminal and fearsome. This perspective carries with it feelings of fragility as young people search for their own identity and philosophy of life and death.

When a loved one dies, children of this age may have difficulty in concentrating, exhibit a decline in the quality of their schoolwork, become withdrawn and isolated from family and friends, and seem persistently angry and sad. There could be frequent physical complaints with constant fatigue and frequent drowsiness. For older children, unresolved grief may be reflected in drug or alcohol abuse, impulsive behavior, and increased risk-taking. Instead of controlling their moods, their moods control them.

What you can do:

The way in which youngsters work through their grief depends a great deal on how family members and friends reach out to them. The more they are encouraged to share their grief, the more likely they will be better able to cope with the loss in their life. Grieving may help to bring direction to their lives as they become more open to others. "After this, I know I can handle anything," one youth said. "I now know that our family will stick together and who my real friends are. I'm able to remember the person who died without always crying by thinking of some of the great times we had together."

Make sense of death at an age-appropriate level in a safe physical and psychological environment. The goal is to understand that death is irreversible and permanent, involving the cessation of all physiological functioning. The ways of helping children cope are as limitless as adults' patience, caring, and love.

February 2014
The Importance of Sleep

We all know that it is important to get a good night's sleep at any age! 

The problem for parents is that youngsters can often turn bedtime into a battleground if they are difficult to settle and seem to have endless 'excuses' for popping out one more time. Sleep is important for maintaining good health and for recharging energy. 

Sleep deprivation leads to children feeling tired and to having poorer concentration and attention span during the day. This affects their ability to learn as their reasoning and processing skills are slower. The child will often show more irritability and frustration and be more accident prone. Anxiety and depression are linked with sleep loss. Their immune system can also be lowered. Unfortunately, being overtired actually makes it harder to relax and fall asleep. 

Children between 5 – 12 years need about 10 – 11 hours of sleep per night on average. 

Quality of sleep can be influenced by many factors. Some are inherent or developmental - such as asthma, allergies, or 'growing pains'. Others relate to the environment - such as anxiety about bad dreams or daytime stresses, or lack of exercise. 

The good news is that parents can help their children to change poor sleeping patterns but it takes some time and consistent effort to set up better routines. You cannot “make” someone fall asleep but you can help make it more likely by providing a quiet and predictable pre-bedtime routine. 

If you are concerned about your child's sleep, keep a record of their patterns for a few weeks. Note the time they wake up and whether they seem tired or irritable then or during the day. Include the weekends as well as school days. 

If they seem to be doing well with less sleep than recommended, you will need to decide whether the bedtime battles are really about the child's need for sleep or your own need for a peaceful evening. You might find that you can get them to bed then allow them to quietly read or listen to music for a set time. 

Some children have a natural tendency to stay up but are hard to wake in the morning. Parents will need to wake the child earlier consistently (even in the weekends) so that their daily internal 'clock' changes. We see this happening with daylight saving as we all have to adjust to different hours. 

The routine before bed can start an hour or so beforehand if you include the evening meal and a pleasant bath. Ensure that homework time is provided early in the evening or straight after a snack. Refer to the clock as bedtime approaches. You will already be familiar with the excuses your child tends to use. Build these into the routine - have a drink of water by the bed, decide what easy food is allowed if they say they are hungry, put on the night light, remind them that they must stay in bed now. 

Some children demand that parents stay in the room until they fall asleep. This can be done as a transition strategy but the point is for the child to be able to put themselves to sleep. 

Other reassurances can be provided if the child is anxious. 
  • Quiet, soothing music which blankets other noises
  • A worry box to put their worries in or a worry doll to hold
  • tell stories about characters that overcome worries/fears (check the Library)
  • use positive phrases that reinforce the idea of having a 'lovely sleep' and being full of energy in the morning
  • teach and practise relaxation techniques so they are familiar with them and can enjoy them at bedtime on their own. You can read scripts initially and show the child how to follow the ideas or use special CDs so that they can be independent
Find our more information on the Melbourne Children's Sleep Centre website. 
January 2014

Just sending them on their way

Families have all had quite a few days together. So don’t just send the kids out the door as vacation ends, as you would if they had been in school yesterday.

“As a goodbye on the first day back to school or work, be sure to smile and tell your child that even though you won’t be together (or you’ll miss each other) today, you’ll still be thinking about him and you know he’ll be thinking about you,” says Beth Griffith, a D.C. -based child and adult psychotherapist.

After a long break from school, one that included lots of stimulation, fun and major changes in routines, children who tend to be anxious may have a tough time transitioning back and separating from their parents.

Think about it: It’s hard even for many of us adults to return to our early wake-ups, deadlines, jobs and schedules.

“When one’s parent isn’t beside her, a child has to find a place in her mind where she can recall a picture of mom or dad,” Griffith says. “Simply verbalizing that can help both parent and child manage the missing and can reassure your child that you’ll be internally there even if not physically present.”

Helping your child to internalize loved ones and to use language to help think about and understand those feelings “are two of the most crucial developmental coping skills you can help your child gain,” she says. “Plus you’ll be sending the message that you’re confident in his ability to use those coping skills.”

Excerpted from Amy Joyce  
Six things every parent needs to stop doing right now

October 2013
Learning to Use Your School Counselor
    The school year is underway with many opportunities and challenges.  While it is common for parents to focus on the school's classroom teachers, there are other important resources at school including the school counselors, psychologist, and social worker. School counselors are the professionals educated and trained to work with students in terms of human development, relationship issues and the many choices that students have to face. 
   While most of us are aware that school counselors can help with many of the "problems in living" and relationship issues that growing youngsters have to face.  They also teach lessons in the classrooms and run small groups. 
   School counselors are among the best educated and trained professionals in your child's school.  The Commonwealth of Virginia requires counselors hold at least a Masters degree in counseling. Having well-trained professionals as school counselors helps them understand both the educational process and the developmental stages that children go through.  They understand the significant self-concept developmental issues that occur and know how to help students facing difficulties.
   Many parents fail to realize that their school counselor is there to not only help the students, but can also provide assistance to parents facing problems with their child.  When you're dealing with your child's unhappiness with school, the school counselor is the resource you need. 
   An excellent investment for you as a parent is to make an appointment, within the first semester, to meet your child's school counselor and to understand the services she can provide.  You'll probably find your school counselor's expertise can be a valuable asset in trying to raise a healthy, happy, well-adjusted child. 
 Adapted from the American Counseling Association
September 2013
August 2013
Teasing Isn't Something To Be Ignored
from the American Counseling Association
Teasing may often seem a normal part of childhood. Most parents have had to comfort a teary-eyed child who has been the victim of a teasing episode at school. It's just what children do, right?
While schools are working harder to combat schoolyard violence and bullying, too often teasing is dismissed as something minor and commonplace that doesn't do much harmHowever, the reality is that teasing can have painful and long-lasting effects. Studies have found that children who are repeatedly teased may end up suffering from depression, anxiety and sleep problems. They are more likely to avoid school, and in severe cases can suffer from serious emotional and psychological issues.
Parents often try to encourage their son or daughter to pay no attention to being teased, repeating that old adage, "Sticks and stone may break my bones, but names will never hurt me." Or they may be dismissive, telling the child to tough it out, saying that being teased just builds character. Such advice, however, doesn't really help and may just convince the child that mom and dad really don't understand how painful it is being teased. Sometimes that can lead to the child withdrawing and not sharing experiences.
Instead, experts advise letting your child know that what has upset him or her is just as serious a problem to you. Listen sympathetically to what happened and try and see the problem from your child's point of view. Don't be critical or disapprove of how your child handled the incident. He or she is already feeling picked upon and hurt. Be supportive, showing you understand why the teasing was upsetting. You might share stories, real or hypothetical, of your teasing experiences. Your child should understand it is perfectly normal to be upset by teasing.
Children can also learn how to handle or stop teasing. There are several books on the subject. Your child's school counselor can also help. The idea is not to report the teaser, since that will seldom stop the problem, but rather to get the counselor to help your child learn techniques to stop the teasing. A local professional counselor specializing in family and child counseling is another place to turn for assistance. 
To adults, teasing may seem a minor issue, but for a child facing repeated taunting, harassment and ridicule, this is a problem that can have serious negative effects his or her life.
"Counseling Corner" is provided by the American Counseling Association. Comments
and questions to ACAcorner@counseling.org or visit the ACA website at counseling.org
June 2013
 Healthy Eating

Adapted from review by  Mari-Jane Williams Post Points

Children's wellness is influenced by many factors including adequate sleep, physical exercise, personal/social relationships, and healthy eating. If you are trying to figure out how to teach your children good eating habits and how to have a healthy relationship with food, check out, Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School.

The book, written by two dietitians Jill Castle and Maryann Jacobson, offers recipes and tips on meal planning, nutrition and fitting cooking into a busy schedule. Here are some tips, from the book:

*Rotate different fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and protein sources frequently in your child's diet. The more variety your child eats... the better her chances are of meeting specific nutrient requirements. Remember not to get hung up on how your child eats one day; instead, consider her intake over the course of the week.

*Instead of overcontrolling how much children eat ("You can have one cookie"), allow them to enjoy the sweets in a focused way until they are satisfied: "Let's sit at the table and enjoy the cookies."

*Serve meals family-style and allow your child to serve himself, helping him if he is under five years old. Serving items separately instead of mixing foods can help.

*Add foods to your teen's diet that lower cholesterol naturally: oats; barley; beans; eggplant; okra; nuts; vegetable oils; strawberries; citrus fruits; apples; grapes; soy; fatty fish; and foods fortified with sterols and stanols, such as margarine, granola, and chocolate.

May 2013
 May is Mental Health Month

"Pathways to Wellness" - this year's theme for Mental Health Month - calls attention to strategies and approaches that help all Americans achieve wellness and good mental and overall health.  Wellness involves complete general, mental and social well-being, and mental health is an essential component of overall health and well-being.

There are many activities that promote well-being and help us achieve wellness.  These include maintaining a balanced diet, regular exercise, appropriate amounts of sleep, maintaining a sense of self-worth, developing coping skills that promote resiliency, emotional awareness, and staying connected to family, friends and the community.In an effort to increase awareness about mental health, we invite you to participate in Mental Health Month by spreading the role of wellness in fostering good mental health.  This link offers suggestions to families to do during May to promote mental health http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/may/calendar
April 2013
 April is Child Abuse Awareness Month

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness about child abuse and neglect and encourage individuals and communities to support children and families.

How does domestic violence affect children?

Domestic violence often includes child abuse. Children may be victimized and threatened as a way of punishing and controlling the adult victim of domestic violence. Or they may be injured unintentionally when acts of violence occur in their presence. Often episodes of domestic violence expand to include attacks on children. However, even when children are not directly attacked, they can experience serious emotional damage as a result of living in a violent household. Children living in this environment come to believe that this behavior is acceptable.

The estimated overlap between domestic violence and child physical or sexual abuse ranges from 30 to 50 percent. Some shelters report that the first reason many battered women give for fleeing the home is that the perpetrator was also attacking the children. Victims report multiple concerns about the effects of spousal abuse on children.

In Arlington County if you suspect Child Abuse (Child Protective Services) call 703-228-1500.

March 2013
Common Sense Online
 When elementary-aged children first start exploring the Internet, most parents are concerned about strangers - the chance children will meet a dangerous teen or adult.  While parents do have to be aware of online strangers - and teach children to avoid them - keeping children safe online is a lot more than not giving private contact information to strangers.  Staying safe is about a child's entire online experience.  Beginning at the age when children start to interact on the internet - playing games, watching YouTube videos, socializing in virtual worlds, sharing pictures, and searching on Google - parents need to be actively involved in their children's online lives. 
Teaching digital citizenship includes reminding children not to give out private information, to behave responsibly and respectfully toward others, and to understand the difference between ads and content.  Being responsible about online life also means limiting the amount of time children spend online and teaching them to balance online activities with other activities.  Start by visiting the sites your children enjoy (good links are available on the grade level web sites).
Keeping your children safe requires active parental engagement and real conversation about online life.  In today's world, where children turn to the Internet for just about all of their interests, education is a parent's first line of defense in keeping children safe.
It's harder than ever for parents to keep track of what children are doing online.  Children today can go online from so many different sources, including video game consoles, iPhones and smart phones, and even handheld gaming devices.  Young people are increasingly living their lives online, and their digital devices are some of their favorite toys and tools.  With active parent guidance the Internet can be a safe place; however, it is an ongoing process as children get older and technology evolves.
October 2012

Parents More Influential Than Schools in Academic Success

Parents who want their children to succeed academically in school have more influence over that outcome than the schools themselves, according to a study by researchers from three universities.

"The effort that parents are putting in at home in terms of checking homework, reinforcing the importance of school, and stressing the importance of academic achievement is ultimately very important to their children's academic achievement," Dr. Toby Parcel, professor of sociology at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C. and a co-author of the study, told Education Week.

To arrive at their findings, researchers used the National Education Longitudinal Study data to evaluate social capital at home and at school. Parcel said her group evaluated results from 10,000 12th graders, taking into account their composite test scores in math, reading, science, and history to measure achievement levels.

Researchers compared measures of "family social capital" and "school social capital," discovering that even in schools that had low social capital, students were more likely to excel if their family social capital scores were high.

Measures of family social capital included:

• Does the parent check the student's homework?
• Does the parent attend school meetings?
• Does the parent attend school events?
• How much trust does the parent have in the child?
• How often do students report discussing school programs, activities, and classes with parents?

"In part what's going on is that, when the children's parents are engaged in those ways, then the children pick up on it. They think, 'School is important. My parents think it's important,' and that increases their attachment to education, which translates into better achievement," Parcel said.

To measure school social capital, which is defined as a school's ability to serve as a positive environment for learning, the researchers evaluated:

• Student participation in extracurricular activities;
• Whether the school contacted parents;
• The level of teacher morale;
• The level of conflict between teachers and administrators;
• Whether teachers responded to individual student needs; and
• An overall measure of school environment that tapped delinquency, absenteeism, and violence.student at the University of California-Irvine, reported their findings in "Does Capital at Home Matter More than Capital at School?: Social Capital Effects on Academic Achievement," which was published online Sept. 5 by the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility.

Parcel and co-authors Dr. Mikaela Dufur, of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah and Kelly Troutman, a Ph.D.


September 2012

Small Counseling Groups at Nottingham 2012-13

The purpose of a counseling group at school is to complement and enhance student learning by helping students improve their perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors. A psycho-educational  group provides a safe setting where children increase their: 1) self-awareness, 2) cooperation and communication skills, and 3) ability to have fun with peers. Children learn from each other and help each other. Ultimately, the goal of an elementary support group is to PREVENT problems in the future by teaching children new skills.

The counselors are getting ready to start small groups in early October.  To help us prioritize the groups we offer and the order we conduct them we need to know if you are interested in your child participating in a small group with one of us this year.  Groups generally meet for 25-40 minutes per week with the number of sessions dependent on the purpose and needs of the group.  This is our starting list but other groups can be added as needed:

Friendship Groups / Social Skill Development (Grades 1-4) 6-11 sessions

Friendship Groups are a fun way for students in the same grade level to make new friends and practice their social skills in a safe, small group setting. Children are invited to participate in friendship groups for a variety of reasons. A few examples include: a child who is shy or often appears to play alone during free choice time or recess, a child exhibiting behaviors that unknowingly (to the child) “turn off” others, a child who repeatedly complains of not having any friends, a child who has a hard time initiating friendships, a child who lacks self-confidence, and/or who needs a confidence boost, or a child who is very accepting and easily befriends other children (always a very beneficial addition to a group). Role models are welcome!

Emotion Management (Grades 2- 4) 8-11 sessions

These groups are designed to assist children in developing strategies to help them understand their feelings and put them in perspective so they can better relax , cope, learn and have fun with friends. The child who might benefit from being in this group may worry a lot, may show a great deal of resistance to try new experiences, may often seem anxious, have a lot of fears and/or make frequent trips to the nurse for headaches and tummy aches. Children who exhibit one of the above, or a combination, can develop understanding and coping strategies in a fun, safe environment.

Impulse Control (Grades 1 & 2) 9-10 sessions

By utilizing the principles of learning such as modeling, role-playing, feedback and transfer students will be taught prosocial behaviors. Children will be encouraged to “think before they act” by providing them with new skills, sufficient practice and reinforcement in their home and school environments. 

Families In Separate Homes (Grade 1) or All Kinds of Families (Grade 3) 8-9 sessions

Family Change Groups are for students whose family is something other than the traditional mom, dad, and child(ren).  These groups are beneficial to students by enabling them to meet other children going through a similar experience. Many students find comfort in discovering they are “not the only one” in the school with a family that has experienced a change or does not look like the families of most of their classmates. Students also develop a greater comfort discussing feelings and skills they might need to express themselves.

Study Skills and Organization Groups (Grades 4 & 5) 6-8 sessions

Being successful in school and building a solid academic foundation is important to future success.  Based on the specific needs of the group skill building activities will be taught, practiced, encouraged, structured, and maintained for children to be successful.  These skills may consist of listening, focusing, being organized, using time efficiently, knowing how to study, completing homework, knowing how to take tests, and maintaining a good attitude are all essential skills for school success.

Girl Empowerment (Grades 4 & 5) 6-7 sessions

These groups are designed to strengthen self-esteem and self-perception. The groups promote awareness about how certain environments can affect self-esteem and encourages resiliency.

5th Grade Book & Bag Lunch (Separate Groups for Girls and Boys) 6-7 sessions

All 5th grade students are invited to participate in a 5th Grade book discussion group at lunch that will focus on peer relationships and how to navigate the sometimes tricky waters of friendship. Students who sign up will be loaned a book to read and discuss dealing with topics that include peer pressure, cliques, being different, and fitting in.

Lunch Bunch (Kindergarten) 3-5 sessions

All kindergarten students are invited to participate in our informal “Lunch Bunch" program. Students whose parents sign them up are periodically invited to come eat their lunch in the counselor's office with a few of their classmates.  Lunch bunches provide a chance for conversation and games.   The focus is on developing friendship and social skills.  Groups rotate each week to ensure that all students get an opportunity to participate.

Most children can benefit from participation in a small group. Students can be invited to join a group by parent request, teacher suggestion, or by student request.  We do our best to work around your child’s schedule and not interrupt their academic learning. If you'd like for your child to participate, contact one of the counselors.

August 2012
Welcome Back
Welcome back for another exciting school year.  This year Ms. Bresnahan will again work with kindergarten and she will also be the third grade counselor.  She will be at Nottingham on Thursdays and Fridays.  Dr. McCormac, the full-time counselor, will work with grades 1, 2, 4, and 5.  Both counselors are available to meet with parents by appointment.  The first week of school we will be doing "Welcome" sessions for all students new to Nottingham in grades 1-5 and displaying their pictures on the bulletin board in the main hallway.  We will go into the classrooms to introduce ourselves and our program.  Beginning the second week of school students in grades 3-5 will be taught weekly lessons by one of the counselors.  These will go through Thanksgiving and cover academic, career, and personal/social competencies.  After Thanksgiving, students in K-2 will have a lesson every other week taught by one of the counselors.
If you are the parent of a new kindergarten student or a student new to Nottingham, please join the  counseling program and the PTA for our "Boo Hoo" kick-off breakfast the first day of school beginning at 8:50am in the library.  Come for a few tips on transitions and to meet other Nottingham parents.
May 2012
 Year In Review
Counseling Advisory Committee
We want to thank both staff and parents who served on the Committee this year. The committee members were:
Mary Beth Pelosky and John Koutsouftikis
Marlyn Fitz, Carol Sacks, Elizabeth Berendt Hughes, and Colleen Hughes
Katie Biechman, Donna Jensen, Anne Stewart, and Nicole Gustafson
Mary Beth McCormac and Kaitlin Bresnahan
The work of the committee this year included developing and monitoring school counseling program goals and tackling the issue of how best to celebrate diversity at Nottingham.  Thank you for your service!
This year we tried our first online parent book club.  About 22 staff and parents read "Little Girls Can Be Mean."  However, only a few posted comments on Blackboard to discuss reactions.  Many people reported that Blackboard is not user friendly for this type of  format so we will explore alternatives next year.
The counseling staff and librarian collaborate to address the issue of helping students become good cyber citizens.  In June all students will get lessons in the library about internet safety and a reminder about cyber-bullying.  Next year we are planning a half day devoted to this to alternate with the career fair.
The "Books and Bag Lunch" groups for 5th graders led by the Student Services staff was expanded this year.  Two new books were added to the mix and both were well received.
We will not be conducting a formal needs assessment of the counseling program this school year; however, all suggestions are welcome.  Please send any ideas to Dr. McCormac.




















Last Modified on May 6, 2015